Herbal supplements and heart trouble

WGEM News at Five
Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:19 PM CST
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ORLANDO, Fla. (WGEM) --- If you take dietary or herbal supplements, buyer beware … cardiologists are reporting a recent surge in heart problems in people in their twenties and thirties. This adds to the concern that some heart doctors have voiced for years about other supplements, including calcium.

Bitter orange for heartburn or nausea, ephedra for colds, and fish oil for heart health.

But instead of boosting your health, could they hurt your heart? Some cardiologists say these supplements, which are mostly unregulated, have contributed to irregular heartbeats in people under 30.

Johns Hopkins, Preventive Cardiologist, Erin Michos has studied dietary supplements and the heart for years. She’s focused on the impact of calcium supplements. Good for bones, but maybe bad for the heart.

Doctor Michos says, “So many individuals are taking these, when many well-done clinical trials have shown that these supplements are no better than placebo and they may be a waste of money and in worst case scenario, there may be some harm.”

Instead, Doctor Michos and other experts encourage patients to alter their diets to get the nutrients they need.

“I really push my patients to try to get that from food sources alone.” Explains Doctor Michos.

So … more milk, cheese and yogurt for a calcium boost. Here are some other substitutions: rub bitter orange on the skin instead of ingesting it and you’ll still have the benefits, use green tea extract instead of ephedra, and for those omega threes eat salmon or mackerel instead of taking fish oil. Healthy substitutes that may also protect your heart.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the NIH, there are reports of otherwise healthy people fainting and having chest pain after taking a supplement that contained bitter orange as one of many ingredients. But experts say, it’s hard to know if bitter orange caused the health problem. Also, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, has placed bitter orange on its current list of banned drugs, listing it as a stimulant.

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